Random Thoughts

A Little Bit Every Day
DSC01502I started writing the fifth book in the Allison Coil Mystery Series on Jan. 1, 2014. (Yeah, New Year’s Day. Just Because.) I finished the draft on Monday, March 28. I wrote 500 words a day. That’s 453 days, which would have been 165,433 words if I made forward progress every day. But I needed to back up a few times, re-work a few things. I took a break to write a short story. And another. I finished Draft 1 with 112,000 words, still too many. Lots of cutting to come. What’s my point? 500 words a day isn’t much. It adds up. Do the math.

 

 

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There’s A Feeling I Get
April2015StairwayThis excellent column by Bob Lefsetz is all about rock and roll. But I thought about writing the whole time. Led Zeppelin went their own way with “Stairway to Heaven.” Their previous album was a dud.

Here’s Lefsetz: “What Led Zeppelin said back in ’71 is that you’re best doing it your way, by yourself, with your peeps, than hiring outside hands to meddle with your vision … That we react to and love most that which is personal and human.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Lessons Learned
April2016WeirdI’ve had some excellent podcast guests lately, but check out the one with Eleanor Brown. She had a huge hit with The Weird Sisters. Huge! She was on the road doing promotion for 18 months! And then she wrote three more books that all went pffffft before finding the groove for the one that comes later this year, The Light in Paris.

Much like Led Zeppelin, she listened to her heart. (I guess Tom Petty sang that, too.) Humility, folks. It’s a tough business. Listen.

Her workshop is Saturday, April 30 at Columbine Library in Littleton.

 

 

 

 

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Legends of the Fall
Harrison & ReillyEverything they’re saying about Jim Harrison, who died recently, is true.

Read his stuff if you don’t know his work—gritty, singular, raw, honest. I looked up an old review I wrote of his three-novella collection, The Woman Lit By Fireflies.

Anyway, at the bottom of the review I came across a funny exchange with my late pal Gary Reilly and I shook my head (yet again) at Gary’s dry humor. I miss that guy. (Click on the picture to read the exchange.)

 

 

 

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The Detachment
The Detachment Cover - FINALSpeaking of Gary, Running Meter Press is launching The Detachment at The Tattered Cover on Friday, April 15 (Colfax Store) at 7 p.m.

I managed to get advance blurbs from some amazing writers—Stewart O’Nan, Ron Carlson, John Mort, Fred Haefele.

Carlson compared The Detachment to Catch 22 and that’s a guy who teaches fiction in an elite program out in California. O’Nan (pals with Stephen King and one prolific writer himself) called it a ‘classic.’

Speaking of length, The Detachment is 534 pages. It’s a powerful, heavy book based on Gary’s experiences in Vietnam as a military policeman.

 

 

 

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Honors for Gary
Pick Up at Union Station - Final JPGSpeaking of Gary, Pick Up At Union Station (his seventh novel in The Asphalt Warrior series) was named a finalist in literary fiction for the 2016 Colorado Book Award.

That’s three finalist nominations out of that seven-book series.

The other two were Ticket to Hollywood in 2013 and Doctor Lovebeads in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

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Productive

My pal Gary Reilly.
My pal Gary Reilly.

The Detachment is the ninth title we’ve published of Gary’s—after seven books in The Asphalt Warrior series and The Enlisted Men’s Club, the first book in his series about Vietnam following Private Palmer.

And Running Meter Press still has about 15 books to go.

Fifteen.

Gary wrote more than 500 words a day.

 

 

 

 

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Tethered by Letters

April2015FrictionIs Metro Denver and the Colorado Front Range chock full of writer groups?

Right?

There’s bound to be one out there to suit your needs.

Here’s a new one I came across last year. Tethered by Letters.

Yes, based here but with connections all over the world, really. One reason I mention them is because they do a great job—web site, online interactions, classes and a literary magazine called F(r)iction.

The other reason to mention them is because they offer pretty good money for flash fiction, short stories, poetry and more. Check ‘em out!

 

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The RMFW Spotlight is on Wendy Terrien, Secretary

2016_Wendy Terrien1. Welcome to the blog, Wendy. Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

First and foremost, I am the bag lady!  I don’t push a shopping cart around town, but I do coordinate the swag bags for Colorado Gold. I also serve on the workshop committee (which is a tough job—we get so many great workshop proposals!), and I recently became the new Secretary for RMFW.

Being involved with RMFW beyond membership is an excellent way to give back to an organization that has given me so much, not least of which is the strong network of writing mentors and friends. The support system is genuine and solid, and it’s made a huge difference in my writing journey. I’m happy to do what I can for the organization, and for fellow writing friends, old and new.

2016_Terrien_Rampart Guards2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

My debut novel, The Rampart Guards, launched on February 26, 2016. I’m thrilled with how it’s done so far. The novel received a starred review from Kirkus (AAAHHH!) and the editors at Kirkus Reviews chose it to be an Indie Book of the Month in April. It’s been an amazing ride.

The Rampart Guards is available at Amazon, as well as Tattered Cover and BookBar. And it can be ordered through any bookstore.

I’m also part of Wicked Ink Books, which consists of me and fellow RMFW members Becky Taylor, Corinne O’Flynn, Sue Duff aka Sue Loeffler, Aimee Henley, Shawn McGuire, and Kristi Helvig. We just published our first anthology, Tick Tock: Seven Tales of Time. It’s available at Amazon, and we just signed a contract to have it published in Turkey—very exciting!

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

Publishing The Rampart Guards was one of those and I’m proud of that achievement. Now I’d love to see it, and the rest of the series, build on the initial success and take it to the next level. I envision seeing it made into a movie—wouldn’t that be fun? And I’d of course invite all RMFW members to the premiere.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

Procrastination. Am I the only writer in RMFW who suffers from that? I read about all these diligent writers we have, who do things like get up at 4AM every day and write for several hours without fail. That’s so not me. I find chunks of time when I can write (not a set schedule), but then I’ll pay bills or do laundry first, telling myself I won’t be able to focus if those other things aren’t finished. There may be some truth to that, but it drives me crazy sometimes because I do want to be writing. I guess that’s my tortured artist bit—LOL.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

The magic. I love how the characters come to life and direct the story themselves, so much so that it feels like I’m merely the typist. And I love how a scene I’ve written can still get to me like I’m reading it for the first time. And it all makes my mind function and think in a different, exhilarating way. It’s fantastic.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Stay focused and know you’re on the right track. There is much to learn, and much work to be done, but keep going, keep learning, believe you can do this. We all suffer from that inner voice that tries to pull us down--don’t give into the negative thoughts. Embrace and leverage the excellent resources around you.

2016_Terrien_Office7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

I have a sit-stand desk that I love, and I always have at least one pup nearby (we have three dogs—all rescues), which I also love.

I have the word Dream on my desk, followed by a quote from Walt Disney: All dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them. I remember when I first put that on my desk, the idea of writing a novel was so far away I could barely imagine it. But here I am.

I also have a trophy I won in 8th grade for first place in an essay-writing contest. It makes me smile, and it reminds me that I can be successful if I work hard (and I did work hard on that essay, with much thanks to my English teacher at the time, Mr. Williams). It also reminds me how important it is to ask for and accept feedback on your writing.

And I always have a glass of water—I drink plenty-o-water, and I hope everyone else out there does as well.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I’m reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert and I’m really enjoying it, though I wish I had more time to spend with it. I need to put reading at the top of my list when the procrastination-bug strikes. That’d be way more fun that paying bills.

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You can learn more about Wendy and her work at her website. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

The Muddle

One of my favorite writing quotes is, “Every book has a beginning, an end and a muddle.” It’s been true of every one of my books. The first few chapters flow. My characters are vivid and alive. There’s conflict and motivation galore. I can see all the plot points lining up. Everything is moving along nicely. And then I descend into quicksand and my story starts to flounder and flail and slowly sink.

My plot derails. My characters’ motivation stops making sense or feeling right. I can’t figure out the next scene. Or the one after that. My characters refuse to say their lines. Seemingly because they don’t know what to say. It doesn’t matter if I know how the book is going to end. Or even if I'm clear on what will happen in the last third of the book. I’m stranded in the no-man’s land of the middle.

I thought it would be different this time. After all, I’m not writing this book from scratch. I’m rewriting a story for which I have two complete manuscripts and a detailed synopsis for a third version. In theory, I’ve already made it through the “muddle” of this story—twice. But it doesn’t seem to matter. I get stuck. Horribly, wretchedly stuck. I write paragraphs and delete them. I start in a different spot and write some more. And delete that, too. I get discouraged. Maybe I should shelve this project for now. Write on something else for awhile. But superstitious dread won’t let me. The fear that if I quit now, I’ll never get unstuck and figure out the story. I’ll never get past the middle and finish the book.

So, I do what I’ve always done. I think about the story. At night, before I go to bed. In the morning when I wake up. During the day when I’m doing things that don’t require much focus. I contemplate jumping ahead and writing a scene later on. But I’m not sure that will work. If I don’t know where the story goes next, how will I tie everything together and have it make sense?

This time it is a “snowday” from work that rescues me. I finally have a chunk of hours when a dozen other tasks aren’t insisting on my attention. I do what a lot of experts advise: put my butt in the chair and stay there, working at it until the immovable plot starts to move. Once it does, it is like a logjam getting unfree. Everything flows. Clear river ahead.

I think that taking the time to work through the tangle in one sitting is part of the secret. And thinking about the story and letting it foam and fester in your sub-conscious for a few days also helps. But I still don’t understand the actual process that brought about the breakthrough. I can’t remember any of the details. It’s like giving birth; your mind blocks it out. Not because the process is so painful (Not quite !), but because when it’s happening, you’re so focused that there are no circuits in your brain available to imprint the memory.

Which is a darn shame. I’d really like to remember my thought process at the time, the exact steps I took to free my story from the dreaded muddle. Because I know I’m going to have to do it again…and again.

Finding Time to Write … by Danica Favorite

2016_Danica FavoriteWhen people outside the writing world find out that I’m a writer, they’re always shocked because they have no idea how I find time to write. I work what amounts to a full-time job, and though I work from home and have a semi-flexible schedule, I still have to put those hours in. With two children at home who are involved in multiple activities, I spend most of my evenings and weekends driving them back and forth. Some days, I feel like I live in my car. I am on the go from the time I get out of bed until I fall back into bed, exhausted.

Right now, I’m in the middle of a crazy deadline crunch. I just turned in my line edits for a book I have coming out in September, my January book is due May 1st, and I have a book releasing April 1st. Which means I don’t have the luxury of writing when I feel like it or hoping my life is going to slow down so I can catch up.

So, how, then, do I get the writing done?

The key is in finding ways to make the schedule work for you. When my kids are at their activities, I have my laptop with me. An hour of dance practice becomes an hour of writing time. The kids have to be at the riding arena all day? Have laptop, will travel. And, for those unexpected wait times, I have my book files saved on Dropbox, which I can access from my phone or tablet. Writing on my phone is not fun, but I can do it. I was just at my daughter’s robotics competition, and all of my electronics had dead batteries, so I pulled out a notebook and wrote by hand. It wasn’t pretty, but it did the job.

2016_Favorite_ShotgunOne of the most important things I do, though, is communicate with my family. They know when I’m coming up on a deadline, and what kind of time I need. Part of that is knowing how much time it takes me to write a book, then looking at our schedule to see where I can find that time. And when those times don’t add up, it means figuring out what I need to do to make it work. Sometimes, when I’m in a crunch, I’ll spend the weekend at a hotel, locked in a room, writing.

The other crucial piece to balancing my busy life with my writing time is making time for self care. If I don’t have enough fuel in the tank, I’m not going anywhere, especially when it comes to the energy I put into both my family and my writing. I have a standing massage appointment every other week.. I have a regular journaling habit, and I also do a lot of art journaling. That all seems to add up, time-wise, but what I’ve found is that when I am doing all the things that support me emotionally and creatively, I’m a better wife, better mother, better writer, and I don’t feel as pressed for time, even though I still have exactly the same hours in the day.

How do you get that balance?

Take a look your writing habits and needs. Track how long it takes you to write. If you can write an average of 1K in 1 hour, how many hours do you need to write your book? Then look at your schedule. Where in your schedule can you fit those hours? Does that mean cutting something out? I’m amazed at all the ways we all waste time when we take the time to analyze how we’re spending it. Also be aware of hidden times you can use to write. I can usually get about 6 hours of writing time just sitting and waiting for my kids at their various practices. When you’re making your schedule, be intentional about also scheduling down time and self-care time. It’s tempting to pack every minute full of stuff, especially when you’re feeling pressed for time, but in those circumstances, the best thing you can do is to give yourself a break.

How do you balance your writing life with everything else you need to get done?

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A self-professed crazy chicken lady, Danica Favorite loves the adventure of living a creative life. She and her family recently moved in to their dream home in the mountains above Denver, Colorado. Danica loves to explore the depths of human nature and follow people on the journey to happily ever after. Though the journey is often bumpy, those bumps are what refine imperfect characters as they live the life God created them for. Oops, that just spoiled the ending of all of Danica’s stories. Then again, getting there is all the fun.

Learn more about Danica and her writing at her website. She can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

We sing because we have a song

This week I wrote, “The End.” It’s a rare treat--for me, that is. Some prolific writers (Marie Force comes to mind, and Nora Roberts) can write a full-length novel in 60 days or less. My speed is more like one book a year.

Please indulge me as I savor it. The book: Crimson Secret. Book Four in the Coin Forest series, set during England’s War of the Roses. I even developed a positioning TM tag line for the series: History  made passionate in medieval England.

I love these characters. I lived through their adventures, and they were exotic and breath-taking. I agonized over their life-and-death decisions, and enjoyed their triumphs. I love this story.

Now comes the revision process, during which we reach inside, grab our toes and pull, turning ourselves inside out as each paragraph, page and chapter is reviewed, revised, enhanced, deleted and polished to make it the best story it can be.

After that, my heroic beta readers will read it from cover to cover, and the gem will be polished again.

bird-287109_1920 singing 2.5 in
Because I so love the music, I must join the chorus. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Then, because I’m an independently published author I will work with my book cover designer (my talented daughter, Jalena) to design an eye-catching cover that will provide clear proof of the genre and convince readers to buy it.

To add to that marketing effort, I will solicit reader book reviews, format my novel for Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Kobo and write an intriguing book description. I will send ARCs to procure testimonials. I will blog and tweet and Facebook my way through those pre- and post-release weeks. I will go on blog tours, make community appearances and may produce a video trailer and appear on radio and podcast interviews. I will enter contests, because winning them provides more prestige for the novel.

I used to be a traditionally published author, and I did much of the same work for those novels.

Few people know the work involved for both traditionally published and indie published authors. But we do it, for one book, two books, ten. Thirty. Each novel is a cherished story, one that we hope will bring readers the same joy as it did us.

Why? Why do we do it?

A dear friend of mine, Joya Wonderlight, is a gifted piano teacher with high enthusiasm for children, music, and life.  A plaque on her wall reads, “Use the talents you possess – for the woods would be silent if only the best birds sang.” …many variations exist of this quote, credited to Henry Van Dyke.

An unattributed Chinese proverb says, “A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.”

These concepts are why I write. Writing enriches our lives. Good writing entertains, but it also stimulates the imagination. It validates our human existence, with all its trials and emotions and joys. It enlightens and invites thoughtful reflection. It can improve a reader's afternoon--or change his or her life.

It changes writers' lives, too. To bring a story from beginning to end is a tremendous workout for the mind. We become more aware of universal needs, and the bond we share with all of humanity. And we become better writers, because with each book we write, we become better and better at our craft, and the quality of our message.

Which birds sing the best? That’s a subjective question. Each person’s voice is unique and who among us would want to silence the forest?  Because I so love the music, I must join the chorus.

I love reading my work to my critique partners. We share a unique friendship, and I have come to love them as a special family in my life. We share a passion. I love it when they are pleased with my pages. I love it when I am pleased with their pages. We see and celebrate our progress. These friendships are gifts.

I also love my readers, and reading their reviews of my novels. When a reader writes that they loved my story so much they're going to read it again--when they intuit the theme of my books, love my characters, are eager to read my next release--that I've made the 15th century come alive for them.--it's a heady brew of emotions. Relief. Pleasure. Excitement. Connection. Before I was published, I used to fear reviews. I have discovered that they are another gift.

The other reason I write is because, in addition to the challenge of creating and delivering a story intact from my heart to the page, writing is a form of self-discovery.  I have learned much about my hopes and dreams by creating and following my characters’ desires. And just in case I get so  confident that I think I've conquered the hero's journey with its many satisfying goalposts, life often surprises me.

Which is good. This keeps life interesting, and our pens moving across the page. We sing because we have a song.

Why do you write?

Volunteering, it’s a little like writing

I’m RMFW president. Huh. Didn’t see that coming. I live on the western slope. People said no one outside of the Denver area would ever be president. That was ok with me.

When I wrote my first words and sat back to re-read them, I admired those words. I was writing the next best seller. I had this shit. I was good. I went on-line to find other writers so they could also admire my words.

In that search, I found Colorado Romance Writers and shortly thereafter attended my first writers’ gathering. A weekend retreat. In hindsight, getting lost on the way there was likely the universe’s foreshadowing. I left the retreat in tears. I sucked. Not just my writing, but me. I embarrassed myself. I was awkward. Couldn’t read my own writing. Couldn’t answer questions about my storyline. What the hell was POV?

I didn’t give up. If I had, I wouldn’t have found RMFW. Wouldn’t have met all of you. Wouldn’t know my best friend. May not have grown up as nicely as I have. I digress.

It didn’t take me long to realize writing is hard work. It takes time. Ups and downs abound. There are times I read my work and groan. I suck. Still.

Other times I read and once again admire it. In those times, I often don’t remember writing the words. Sometimes, I think I channel an old writer who is pissed she’s dead and wants her words in this world. I wish she would show up more often.

Back to volunteering. I will never forget my first job with RMFW. Well, actually I’m lying. I’ve forgotten a lot of it. I hope that means I was channeling again. Maybe a long dead conference Goddess.

At the first conference I attended, shortly after entering the hotel, I was made the next year's co-conference chair. I was not yet an RMFW member. It took a bit for me to understand what I had been volunteered for, as I hadn’t been privy to that conversation. After many questions and answers that weren’t quite sinking in, my best friend, Marne, held up her arms and waved to encompass the entire hotel and all of the people in sight and said “We are doing all of this. One year from now.”

Once I fully comprehended, I strutted around a bit. The next year, I would be the boss. In control. Back then control was important to me. Thankfully not so much any more.

Then the hard work started. I didn’t even know RMFW, much less how to put on a conference. I am positive there was a lot eye-rolling on the other side of calls and emails. That was a long, exhausting, scary year. And a rewarding one. I met people who have been friends since. Who I will grow old with. Maybe a few of us will get together and do a little channeling ourselves once we’re gone from this world.

Together, Marne and I pulled the conference off. Not sure how well we did it, but we did it. Except for a few months after that first year, I’ve been on the board since. Held a few positions. Helped a bit with conference each year.

I’ve learned more and gained more from my time with RMFW than I can explain in one blog post. I’m grateful. Also more than I can explain.

When I realized I would be the next RMFW president, I thought to myself, I got this. I can do this. I now alternate between, Geez, Vicki, do not screw this up and I got this and wow, how do I fix this situation? Oh, and of course there is I suck. By the way, this is only the second month of my two year term. It’s been an interesting ride already.

But, I don’t expect as much eye-rolling. I know RMFW. I can speak in public. I’ve spent years helping to solve problems, working with the board and putting on events. My abilities and knowledge have grown. I’m a steadier person.

I also still have much to learn.

I’m in the same place with my current WIP. It’s been a long time coming. I’d like to blame it on working and volunteering, but in reality, it’s just been a long time coming. However, I have found my voice. I’m close to typing The End. I’m excited about what I’ve written. I like what I read.

I know what POV means.

I also still have much to learn.

Plotting

No, not what you’re thinking… this isn’t a lesson on how to plot.

This is a musing on how plotting happens.

Which means?

I was shoveling a foot of snow out of my driveway last Tuesday afternoon and I found myself plotting. I’ve been in a restaurant trying to keep my mind on the conversation at my table, and found myself plotting. I’ve been watching a movie, and found myself plotting.

It’s insidious. It creeps into my consciousness no matter what I’m doing. It’s either the story I’m currently working on or it’s the one I’m planning to work on next. It’s a new character that’s begging to be introduced or an old character that does something unexpected. It’s the answer to the corner I’ve painted myself into. It’s the ending I didn’t see coming.

Plotting is a fluid process. Even when I’ve carefully laid the story out scene by scene, I’m often surprised by an idea that seems to pop into my head. It’s what makes writing so much fun.

But not always for those who have to live with you. Sometimes my husband will be chattering away and suddenly he’ll stop and look at me. “You haven’t heard a thing I’ve said, have you?” he’ll ask.

He doesn’t even wait for an answer. “You’re plotting, aren’t you?”

Can’t deny it. I’m a writer. It’s what I do.

Except during the Super Bowl this year… Best.Superbowl.Ever.

So, how about you? Where do you do your best plotting?

Sex With Strangers

Michael Kingsbaker as Ethan; Paige Price as Olivia in 'Sex With Strangers'
Michael Kingsbaker as Ethan; Paige Price as Olivia in 'Sex With Strangers'

Can you judge an author by his or her books?

Should you go Kindle Direct Publishing or hold out hope for Farrar Straus Giroux to come your way?

I’m urging you to book a night to head down to Curious Theatre Company, 1080 Acoma St., and check out “Sex With Strangers” through Feb. 20. You can get in for about $18 and sit upstairs in this amazing theatre space. (Hey, upstairs is closer to the wine bar anyway.)

Don’t let the title mislead you. This is a PG-13 presentation—a bit of skin and some groping on stage. But it’s all in the name of a play about publishing, writing, identity, fame, fortune, selling out, managing reputations and that special tug of war between high art and crass commercialization.

It’s a simple set-up but playwright Laura Eason (“House of Cards” to her credit and much more) wrings every possible nuance from the odd coupling in a remote Michigan bed and breakfast.

In some ways the play is PAL vs iPAL, to put it in RMFW terms. And it’s also about what the two can do for each other.

In one corner, we have blogger-writer-screenplay guy Ethan who has (quite literally) spilled himself all over the Internet. He wrote a blog called “Sex With Strangers” that was started on a bet. It is titillating and tawdry and it has left more tawdriness in its wake. The blog became a book, then two, and a movie is now in the works. Cash is raining down on a guy who admits he’s a bit of jerk in public. It’s a role, you know. It’s not really him.

In the other corner, we have a reclusive, thoughtful, obscure, under-the-radar writer Olivia, author of meaningful fiction who is happy writing in solitude and, she believes, perfectly fine with her status. Her first book fizzled, in part because of a so-wrong “chick lit” cover. “The people who would have liked it didn’t buy it because of what they thought it was,” she laments. “And the people who did buy it hated it, because it wasn’t what they expected.”

Ethan is all Kindle and e-books—a fast-writing man on the move.

Olivia is all leather-bound classics and the smell of an old book. She’s caution and contemplation.

First, mud flies between these two—and then sparks.

Laugh lines are piled high, but so are some razor sharp observations about different attitudes toward publishing, marketing and ownership of art, particularly when he steals her latest manuscript to give it a read. She’s incensed at this brazen break in trust but gets over it when he begins developing ideas for how to re-launch her career by rebranding her first novel, which sank without a trace.

There are a couple of implausible moments in the plot, especially the lightning-quick response from New York agents and publishers, but it’s all in the name of a good story. There was no funnier moment to me than Olivia’s reaction when Ethan recites a line from her long-ago, “forgotten” novel. What’s more seductive than that kind of intense adoration?

We writers know. Absolutely nothing.

The set is terrific, the acting is stellar. Don’t miss “Sex With Strangers.” Well, you know what I mean.

Amazing set at The Curious Theatre Co. For 'Sex With Strangers'
Amazing set at The Curious Theatre Co. For 'Sex With Strangers'

And how was your day….?

helplessI had a different blog in mind. Really. But something happened tonight that reinforces what my life as a writer is like. I thought it might resonate with some of you.

I was at the annual RMFW and board meeting this last Saturday (I don’t think I saw you there?). The 250 mile trip home was near blizzard, and my car ended up covered with road salts. I decided to stop at the carwash on my way home from work tonight. You know the kind— you pay, drive inside, and let it do its thing for five minutes.

Only today, the carwash had something else in mind. I ended up locked inside the car wash. Yes, that was me, sitting there with my bumper six inches from the rollup door, the dryer shaking my car like a tornado, but only drying the front three feet. Thinking it's just a matter of time before the door opens. Then sitting and waiting after the blower stopped. And waiting some more.

The whole fifteen minutes reminds me of my writing life. Where I write a great (hopefully) manuscript, clean and polish it, and when it’s nice and shiny, submit it to an agent or editor. And wait. And wait some more. Worry and second guess myself. And worry some more. Acting like it’s the only thing I can do.

But all I had to do was get out of my car, open the side door, find someone who knew what to do, and let them help me. Just as I am not some helpless old lady, I am not a helpless writer. All I need to do is gather my fellow writers around me for advice and comfort. And start writing something new while I wait. Have my critique crew give me input. Anything but just sitting and waiting for the agent to love me. For someone to rescue me.

I don’t need rescued. I can write my characters out of any situation, and I can handle these painful “wait” periods with a little help from my friends. The moral of this (long) story is…you don’t have to do this alone. You’re part of a tribe, or a seahorse herd (Susan Spann, you will forever be quoted after that epic Gold speech!). We’re all in this together. We understand each other. We’ve been there, done that, and survived. So don’t hibernate, fretting over ”will they like it or will it be a rejection”? No matter which way it goes, you’ll learn from it, and all your RMFW writer friends (even the ones you don't yet know) will cheer your successes or commiserate with your “Thanks But…” letters. Because we’ll be the ones who need it next time.

Don’t wait to be rescued. Open the door and ask for help from your fellow authors. And Write On.

Know-It-All: The Art or Plague of Research

POLL:  How many of you know what the 47th tallest structure is? (No googling, you cheaters).

I do.

Does that make me brilliant or lame?

I have no idea.

But I do know it makes me a writer. You see, I, like you, look for the smallest, seemingly inconsequential detail to breathe reality into my stories.

Or, I'm deluding myself, and my last month of ‘research’ into the tallest structures around the world and the effects on the body of falling off said structure have all been a waste of my precious, limited time on this planet?

Honestly I suspect the latter.

I’m all for research, as long as it’s for the book’s sake and not a means to procrastinate actual writing.

 

Example:

In my latest book, I found myself in the saggy middle, no idea how to write my heroine out of the corner I inevitably wrote her in since I never outline though I think outlining is a brilliant idea. So here I sit, my fingers on the keys, unmoving.

Crap.

Hmmm…Is my writer’s block a sign of early dementia? I mean, I haven’t written a word in over an hour. That has to be something, right? I jump on Google, searching for the signs.

I’m not a hypochondriac.

I’m doing research!

Maybe, since I’m here, I should research the shoes my heroine is wearing? I could name them in the book, show my readers I know my shoes.

Except I don’t.

So I’m not writing. So what? I’m researching!

Of course, what I really am doing is wasting my time on stuff that isn’t vital to my book. Unless shoes play a role, why bother with that level of detail? It is a way for me, at least, to procrastinate instead of doing what I should do and outline the rest of the damn book or at least the scene I’m struggling with.

Research gives life, makes worlds come alive (See this article from Writer’s Digest on how to use research).

But it is and always will be about the story.

No amount of research makes up for what’s on the page.

Or getting those words on the page.

 

BTW, read my next book for the answer to the 47th tallest structure. Hint, it’s close by. And if you’re interested, I’m still ‘researching’ the effects of falling off said structure.

Anyone up for a field trip?

 

What are you currently researching? Do you find yourself ‘researching’ instead of writing when stuck like me?